Talking about Lewis Hamilton’s latest F1 title in late November is beginning to feel a lot like an annual event. The year is capped off by Christmas, with Thanksgiving the preparation event a month prior, and at some point around then, Lewis Hamilton wins the championship.
And just like seeing what presents Santa brings you this year and thinking about what gifts you had in Christmases before, perhaps it’s natural that we also compare Lewis’s latest F1 title with his others.
With there being so many, seven now, it can be challenging to distinguish one from another. That itself speaks volumes of just how relentless the Brit has been since 2014. But as I wrote 10 months ago, some championships are more impressive than others. Since the 2020 campaign isn’t complete yet, I cannot put this season in a final position yet. However, I can compare each to this ongoing season. And in order of his “worst” to best…
The 2015 season was perhaps the height of Mercedes being unrivaled. Sebastian Vettel grabbed a handful of victories but was never a serious title contender. Similar to 2020, Hamilton wholly outclassed a teammate of Finnish descent. We don’t yet know whether Lewis will take a breather now he has his championship as he did five years ago. Personally, I can’t see this. Hamilton seems to grow year-on-year, and as I argued before, he has learned from his late-season 2015 dip that gave Rosberg the edge for 2016.
Verdict: 2020 comfortably better than 2015
In my introduction, I mentioned how difficult it is to differentiate Hamilton’s Championships, and 2020 and 2019 are particularly similar, minus a dubiously powered Ferrari. One could argue that less competition for Hamilton, as it appears 2020 has, should make this year less impressive than others. Although I agree, Hamilton this season has upped his game from the already unimaginable highs it reached in 2019. I would say it is only Austria (version 1) and Silverstone (version 2) where Hamilton hasn’t been the best man on track. The two other times he has not claimed victory, at Russia and Monza, were because of his employer’s rare mistakes, not his.
Verdict: 2020 better than 2019
If you think Hamilton is outclassing Bottas this season, have a look at 2018. While Vettel and Ferrari made a real go of it, Bottas did not claim a win all season. Hamilton had to go it alone and be the point man for Mercedes. You can compare this to the little support Alex Albon is giving Max Verstappen this year. Hamilton bested Vettel and Ferrari more or less single-handedly. Mercedes only took the crown over Ferrari thanks to Hamilton’s significant points advantage (and Raikkonen’s additional DNF’s). 2018 was a season when Hamilton had to dig deeper than this year and therefore pips 2020.
Verdict: 2018 just edges out 2020
Look away, Ferrari fans. 2017 is the year of that Singapore Grand Prix. Ferrari quite possibly had the best car, in particular in the first half of the season. Hamilton was now slogging it out with Sebastian Vettel instead of Nico Rosberg, his antagonist for the three previous years.
Unlike Rosberg, who benefited from the near-perfection of the well-oiled Mercedes team, Vettel saw how lacking Ferrari could be in that latter part of the 2017 season. Hamilton still had to win the races in the closing rounds to take the championship, but Ferrari lost it equally as much as Hamilton won it.
Verdict: Too close to call. If Hamilton wins the Middle Eastern trio, then 2020 will edge out 2017.
All criticisms of Formula One being a single team series will disappear if 2022’s regulations give us a season like 2008. An early-season four-way title fight and constructors needing to outmaneuver one another to take wins would be terrific. A much younger Lewis Hamilton learned so much from ’07 and ’08 and made him the man he is today.
His maiden championship win, taken on the final corner of the final lap of the final race, is a world away from Hamilton’s modern-day campaigns. I rank 2008 highly due to the immense demands the 23-year-old Lewis faced. But if Hamilton wins these final three rounds, then there’s no question 2020 would be a better championship from a completeness point of view.
Verdict: 2020 better than 2008 if Hamilton continues his victory march.
2014 was perhaps the only year where a Mercedes being unparalleled in pace wasn’t met by disappointment from fans. Although by Rosberg’s admittance, Hamilton is a better driver, you didn’t always know it in ’14 with both men fighting tooth and nail in a terrific championship marking the start of the modern turbo-hybrid era.
With Hamilton and Rosberg both delighting in the fact that they knew their car was extraordinary, their joy soon turned to bitterness with a title on the line. I don’t think I can remember a year of my life when I heard the term “psychological edge” as I did in 2014.
It would be a monumental challenge by a driver that would force Hamilton to outwit and outdrive a teammate like he did in 2014 to come close to that heavyweight slug. In fact, with Hamilton now only matched in championships by Schumacher, I think we’ll never see Hamilton face a relative equal like back then.
Verdict: It would take Hamilton winning every race of a season or defeating Verstappen or Vettel in equal machinery for me to rank 2014 below another year.
Originally published at https://www.fortloc.com.